Friday, February 13, 2009

The Scoop With Ryen!

So, it's Scoop time! This week we've got Ryen, the man behind Welcome to Loud City, a tremendous Thunder blog you should read.

1. So going into the All-Star break the Thunder are 4-6 in their last 10 games. How do you think they've played over that stretch?

It’s a big of a mixed bag to be honest, however, there is no question this team is playing tremendously better now than in their 3-29 start. There are some really solid wins in that group as well as disappointing losses. It seems like the losses always stand out in our heads more than wins do, so I’ll get to that first. The biggest disappointment was the first game of this 10 game stretch against the LA Clippers. The Clippers came into that game, I think, with 8 players dressed, and one of those got hurt in the first four minutes of the game. Going up against another of the league’s worst teams, especially when they had a roster that was decimated due to injuries, you expect the team to take care of business, even on the road. Then of course on Super Bowl Sunday, they lost to the Sacramento Kings in overtime. On the flipside, the Thunder had terrific wins at home against the Nets and Blazers. They also played the Nuggets tough at home, right up until the end when Carmelo stole the win in the same fashion he’d done a month ago. You pair that up with a strong performance against the league’s best team, and despite a 4-6 record over their last 10, you have to be encouraged. On a bigger picture scale, the Thunder are 10-11 since December 31st and once again remembering the 3-29 start, it’s hard not to be excited about the progress the team has made this season.

2. I feel this All-Star weekend is a minor coming out party for Kevin Durant (he'll be in the H-O-R-S-E and Rookie-Sophomore game). How important is this for KD's mental stamina for the next half of the season?

I don’t think All-Star weekend is really important to him at all. KD is a rare guy in the sense that he has the talent level to become the next great NBA Superstar, but he doesn’t have the ego to with it. The guy is a hardworking gym right always working hard to improve his game, and improve the team’s chances of winning. So, while he may enjoy the All-Star weekend, don’t expect it to go to his head. He’ll be right back in the gym working hard as soon as he gets home. After all, this is the same guy who said he doesn’t deserve any consideration to be on the All-Star team because his team isn’t winning. The way he’s been playing in 2009, I feel sorry for anyone trying to cover him if he somehow manages to improve even more the rest of the season.

3. The Thunder get tons of points from Durant every night. How balanced is their offense and what do they need to add to become more balanced?

There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of balance on this team right now. They don’t have a dominating inside presence, and they lack a serious threat from the wing. The team is so young, its really hard to have any kind of balance at all because of the swings that young players go through on a night to night basis. Just looking at Russell Westbrook this year will tell you that, at times he looks like he can really turn himself into a premier point guard in the league, and the next night will make so many boneheaded mistakes you wonder why they didn’t just leave him at shooting guard. I think as the team matures and adds a few more pieces, the offense will became more balanced, but for now we’re dealing with young guys growing and going through growing pains each night.

4. Now that Oklahoma City has had this team for a while how has the reaction been? Does the public respect Seattle for giving you the team (I know their recent game in Portland spawned a lot of conversation)?

To be honest, I don’t feel like I’m close enough to the City (Live about 2 hours away) to know what the reaction of the general public in Oklahoma City has been. During games, it’s very clear that the people there have not only fully embraced the team, but grown to love them already. I’ve never been in an environment where the fans are as into the game as the fans in Oklahoma City. The fans chant defense from the first possession to the last, and have the ability to get so loud that you’ll leave the game with your head pounding. As far as the Seattle stuff goes, I don’t think people in Oklahoma City think twice about it, they’re just happy to have a team of their own to cheer for, something we’ve never had in Oklahoma (Major Professional Level). Personally, I have been a Sonics fan for years, and it really was bittersweet for me to see the team go. On one hand, my favorite team is no longer in the league, and on the other, I got the thing I’ve been wanting since I was a kid, a Professional team in my home state. So being a Seattle fan, I can sympathize with those hardcore Sonic fans out there who are outraged the team is going, and it totally sucks for them. There is nothing worse than rooting for a team, possibly your entire life, only to have it taken away from you. Hopefully the NBA will return to Seattle someday and we can see the Sonics play the Thunder. Hey, it happened for the Colts/Ravens/Browns didn’t it? Here is to hoping Seattle gets another team.

5. The Thunder are likely to get a high pick in this years draft (probably not #1 anymore, but a high pick). A combo guard or a big man that can do it on both ends could help them. Let's say they add someone like Blake Griffin, or Brandon Jennings. Would that give them the best young core in the league?

I don’t know if it’s the best young core in the league, I mean, look what Portland is already doing with a young team, but they are definitely on their way. Sam Presti was a guy who came up in the Spurs organization, and it really seems like all the knowledge he gained there has paid off. He’s made moves that a lot of Sonic/Thunder fans didn’t agree with, but after enough time passed, I think the general consensus always seems to be that he made the right moves. When you consider the core group they have now, a high draft pick coming this year, plus a boatload of other teams first round picks, tons of cap space available over the next three years, it certainly seems like this team is poised to be really competitive in 2-3 seasons from now. You would definitely be hard pressed to find a franchise in a rebuilding stage with a better all around situation than this team.

6. How do you stay cheery about the Thunder when are 13-40? Is it the long term payoff you know you'll get soon enough?

I think a lot of it still has to do with the newness of the team, I mean seriously, this is the first time we’ve ever had a professional franchise (of our own) to cheer for. More importantly, the thing that will keep Thunder fans going to games and interested is watching these young players grow and develop. It’s really something else to see players grow right in front of your eyes and improve from one night to the next. With this being the first ever season for the Oklahoma City Thunder, it’s almost as if the Franchise, Players, and Fans, are all learning and growing together. It really feels like we’re a part of them and that we’re all building toward this long term goal of success that we can all see down the road in our heads.

7. Speaking of that payoff, how many years until we start talking about the playoffs for this team?

I really think this team will make the playoffs in the 2010-2011 Season, and a serious contender thereafter. Maybe I’m biased, but I think the Thunder can win another 15 or so games this season (25 total for the year), and follow that up with a 10 game improvement next season finishing just outside the playoffs. In 2010-11, I fully expect this to be a 45+ win team. With a young team like this, it’s really hard to predict just how quickly they can start winning more games, but from what I’ve seen this past month, everything I mentioned above seems entirely possible.

8. What's the potential for Jeff Green? He's got all the skills pretty much, could he be an All-Star,
or will he be a over average role player, borderline star?

Jeff Green is a guy that is often overshadowed by Kevin Durant, and rightly so, but he’s a budding star in his own right. His improvement from last season to this is spectacular, and if he continues on that path, there is no reason he can’t be an All-Star throughout his career. Will he ever be an NBA Superstar, I don’t know for sure, but I think he’s a guy that’s going to have long-term success in the league, hopefully with the OKC Thunder.

9. How is the Thunder fan base on the internet? This team is the latest to make a location change since the Bobcats came about, so I feel this is the first team to start in the thick of the Internet era.

Honestly it seems to be pretty strong (for a relocated team, weak compared to established teams), as far as fans reading about the team. When I moved the site from Thunder in OKC to the SBNation ( I saw a lot more fan interaction in terms of comments. For the most part, Thunder fans don’t even know there are websites out there about the Thunder, which is a big reason I try to have links to other active Thunder blogs on my site. I think as the team settles in over the next few years it will get stronger and stronger. The longer the team is in OKC, the more and more fans it will attract, and the more of those that will branch out to the internet for conversation and reading. There are a couple of fan forums around for the Thunder (namely that seem pretty active. OKC Thunder fans has over 500 members, and 16,000 posts, not bad for a new team.

10. What has been a Thunder fans worst day of the season so far and the best day for a Thunder fan so far?

Worst day is probably the day that Desmond Mason went down and was ruled out for the rest of the season. Mason is a local guy who does a lot for this team, and the community, and for him to be out for the rest of the season was a big blow to the team, the team’s defense, and fans. Of course the countless games lost in the final minutes/seconds are a close second. The best day was probably last Friday when the Thunder lead wire-to-wire and beat the Portland Trail Blazers at home in Loud City, a QUALITY win.

11. I feel that the Thunder and the Pacers are teams that make the best of their talent gap (meaning they do the best with what they've got). Who's behind that for the Thunder? Why aren't they throwing the towel in like the Wizards? Don't they want a high draft pick?

The Players on this team are hungry, these guys WANT to win, and despite their record, continue to work hard and improve. The fans also won’t let these guys throw in the towel, if the Thunder are out there playing hard, the crowd is right there cheering them on like crazy. Example, this past weekend against the Kings, the Thunder had blown a big league and the Kings were on a dominating stretch where the Thunder were struggling. The crowd went nuts chanting, cheering, and doing everything they could to let the team know they were behind them, and despite this run, we believed they could still win the game, which of course they went on to do, 116-113.

Want to know more about Ryen?

Here's his profile:

Ryen (Mr Pappagiorgio) – Welcome to Loud CityI pride myself in keeping the fans updated on a daily basis, and a lot of times, more than once per day. If I had to describe the blog, I'd call it "Water-Cooler" blogging, giving you guys enough information so you don't look like an idiot tomorrow at the water cooler when your buddies are all talking Thunder Basketball.